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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Bacon’s Death, Eulogy, and Execration

By Anonymous

[From “Bacons Proseedings,” in the “Burwell Papers.” Published by the Mass. Hist. Soc. 1814.]

  • BACON having for some time been besieged by sickness, and now not able to hold out any longer, all his strength and provisions being spent, surrendered up that fort he was no longer able to keep, into the hands of that grim and all-conquering captain, Death, after that he had implored the assistance of the above-mentioned minister for the well making his articles of rendition. The only religious duty (as they say) he was observed to perform during these intrigues of affairs, in which he was so considerable an actor, and so much concerned, that rather than he would decline the cause, he became so deeply engaged in the first rise thereof, though much urged by arguments of dehortations by his nearest relations and best friends, that he subjected himself to all those inconveniences that, singly, might bring a man of a more robust frame to his last home. After he was dead he was bemoaned in these following lines (drawn by the man that waited upon his person, as it is said), and who attended his corpse to their burial place, but where deposited till the general day, not known, only to those who are resolutely silent in that particular. There was many copies of verses made after his departure, calculated to the latitude of their affections who composed them; as a relish taken from both appetites I have here sent you a couple:

  • Bacon’s Epitaph, Made by His Man

    DEATH, why so cruel? What! no other way

    To manifest thy spleen, but thus to slay

    Our hopes of safety, liberty, our all,

    Which, through thy tyranny, with him must fall

    To its late chaos? Had thy rigid force

    Been dealt by retail, and not thus in gross,

    Grief had been silent. Now we must complain,

    Since thou, in him, hast more than thousand slain,

    Whose lives and safeties did so much depend

    On him their life, with him their lives must end.

    If ’t be a sin to think Death brib’d can be

    We must be guilty; say ’t was bribery

    Guided the fatal shaft. Virginia’s foes,

    To whom for secret crimes just vengeance owes

    Deserved plagues, dreading their just desert,

    Corrupted Death by Paracelsian art

    Him to destroy; whose well tried courage such,

    Their heartless hearts, nor arms, nor strength could touch.

    Who now must heal those wounds, or stop that blood

    The Heathen made, and drew into a flood?

    Who is ’t must plead our cause? nor trump nor drum

    Nor Deputations; these, alas! are dumb

    And cannot speak. Our Arms (though ne’er so strong)

    Will want the aid of his commanding tongue,

    Which conquer’d more than Cæsar. He o’erthrew

    Only the outward frame: this could subdue

    The rugged works of nature. Souls replete

    With dull chill cold, he ’d animate with heat

    Drawn forth of reason’s limbec. In a word,

    Mars and Minerva both in him concurred

    For arts, for arms, whose pen and sword alike

    As Cato’s did, may admiration strike

    Into his foes; while they confess withal

    It was their guilt styl’d him a criminal.

    Only this difference does from truth proceed:

    They in the guilt, he in the name must bleed.

    While none shall dare his obsequies to sing

    In deserv’d measures; until time shall bring

    Truth crown’d with freedom, and from danger free

    To sound his praises to posterity.

    Here let him rest; while we this truth report

    He ’s gone from hence unto a higher Court

    To plead his cause, where he by this doth know

    Whether to Cæsar he was friend, or foe.

    Upon the Death of G. B.

    WHETHER to Cæsar he was friend or foe?

    Pox take such ignorance, do you not know?

    Can he be friend to Cæsar, that shall bring

    The arms of Hell to fight against the King?

    (Treason, rebellion) then what reason have

    We for to wait upon him to his grave,

    There to express our passions? Will ’t not be

    Worse than his crimes, to sing his elegy

    In well tun’d numbers; where each Ella bears

    (To his flagitious name) a flood of tears?

    A name that hath more souls with sorrow fed,

    Than reached Niobe, single tears ere shed;

    A name that fill’d all hearts, all ears, with pain,

    Until blest fate proclaimed, Death had him slain.

    Then how can it be counted for a sin

    Though Death (nay, though myself) had bribed been,

    To guide the fatal shaft? We honor all

    That lends a hand unto a traitor’s fall.

    What though the well paid Rochit soundly ply

    And box the pulpit into flattery;

    Urging his rhetoric and strained eloquence,

    T’ adorn encoffin’d filth and excrements;

    Though the defunct (like ours) ne’er tried

    A well intended deed until he died?

    ’T will be nor sin, nor shame, for us to say

    A twofold passion checker-works this day

    Of joy and sorrow; yet the last doth move

    On feet impotent, wanting strength to prove

    (Nor can the art of logic yield relief)

    How joy should be surmounted by our grief.

    Yet that we grieve it cannot be denied,

    But ’t is because he was, not ’cause he died.

    So wept the poor distressed Ilium dames

    Hearing those named their city put in flames,

    And country ruin’d. If we thus lament,

    It is against our present joys’ consent.

    For if the rule in Physic true doth prove,

    Remove the cause, th’ effects will after move,

    We have outliv’d our sorrows; since we see

    The causes shifting of our misery.

    Nor is ’t a single cause that ’s slipped away,

    That made us warble out a well-a-day.

    The brains to plot, the hands to execute

    Projected ills, Death jointly did nonsuit

    At his black Bar. And what no bail could save

    He hath committed prisoner to the grave;

    From whence there ’s no reprieve. Death keep him close;

    We have too many Devils still go loose.